Sunday. With a recent flurry of new games arrivals courtesy of the maths trade I (Sam) was keen to try out one of them, and as Steel Driver only had 3 pages of rules that felt like the right choice. I was marginally pushy enough to overcome Ian's mild reticence. Andrew is always willing to try a Martin Wallace game and Chris arrived late, so had no say. We set up.
The game sees you the players as brokers in the railway track-laying industry across the USA in olden times. Over five rounds you bid for control of train companies (there are six) and then, assuming you win, you both receive a share in that company and choose where to build the track using the value of your bid to pay for it. Where you build gets you different cash rewards, and as the ultimate winner is the richest player this is a fairly key part of the game. But - everyone who has shares in a company will get the cash rewards each round - and after the final round there's a kind of reverse-Railways effect where all the cities suddenly get populated with goods cubes. Players who have the most shares in a given train company can take a cube their track is connected to - the catch being that several cities have more than one train company attached to them, so you may be beaten to the punch. Cubes score in sets, so different colours are good and lots of the same colour offers a fairly paltry return.
It was interesting. Myself, Andrew and Ian all found ourselves unable to resist controlling the same company over and over, having invested in it early. Chris went for a more broad spread of companies and in another game that might have proved a winning strategy. What helped me in my ultimate victory wasn't the five green shares, but the fact that I had a wide range of goods cubes to cash in; having been the only player to start building track on the west coast I'd had licence to spread in three directions. The other train companies started in the east, and ultimately got under each other's feet in the eventual goods-cube-bunfight.
Thematically speaking it's perhaps less Wallace-y than Tinners' Trail or Railways, but I enjoyed it.
We then played Push It which I also won, albeit by default when Chris and I were both poised to win and somebody sent my disc spiralling into the jack. The game was also notable for a couple of other things - I broke the rules by rolling a disc between some others (fortunately this wasn't contested as it then rolled much too far to be relevant) and Ian's decision to go fairly aggressive, barrelling into everyone else with arms metaphorically flailing. Not successful, but quite amusing.
After that, Ian and Andrew retired and Chris and I bashed out a two-player Biblios. It was brutal for Chris - in the end the whole game hinged on the alphabet, and fortunately I was lexiconically younger:
Steel Driver gets a thumbs up from me. I'd be interested to hear the other's thoughts.